« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
and daring outrage on the land of his chief. In such case the country is soon alarmed; every village has its look-out post, and the instant that horsemen are perceived, the approach of danger is announced by a large rattle on the highest trees, which brings the labourers from the fields; and the cattle, as if aware of the danger, are seen returning from the pasture at full speed to take shelter in the village, the inhabitants of which are quickly armed and at their stations.
The circumstances attending the driving of cattle in the north-west parts of Jhallawar are particularly deserving of notice. When the alarm is sounded from the village, the cattle surround the herdsman, and accompany him as fast as he can run; they are guided by his voice, and until deprived of their keeper, the plunderer seldom or ever succeeds in driving them off. The robbers, who are Hindus, dare not shoot for fear of killing one of the cows; and his person being surrounded by the cattle, they are frequently unable to reach the head with their spears.
But to return to the Bharwuttia. If he fails in getting the flocks, he seizes the persons of such villagers as he can find, and carries them off. These are styled bhan, or captives, for whose release sums of money are demanded. In short, the life of a Bharwuttia is one of blood and rapine, until he is killed, or by the fury of his feud be compels his chief to grant him redress; and the security of charons * and bhatst having been given on both sides, the outlaw and his family return to their homes and occupations in perfect security.
The Kattees have, in general, been more united than the Rajpoots, and in most cases assist each other against the latter, and carry on their feuds in a spirit of desperation approaching to barbarism. These quarrels between chiefs are termed wyre or were, and involve the family and adherents of both parties. A wyre between a Rajpoot and a Kattee, or between two of the former, is settled by a general meeting of the opponents, when an agreement is made, and the ceremony finally closed by the kusoomba cup. But a dispute between two Kattees is not so easily adjusted, particularly if any member of the chief's family has been slain. In this case, the person who has killed the Kattee proceeds to the house of the deceased, and after submitting himself to their mercy, makes an offer of his daughter in marriage, a favourite mare, cows, or any thing, as an earnest of his sorrow. It is disgraceful for the other party to reject his humble offers of accommodation, and an instance of their taking advantage of their power over his person probably never occurred; but until these advances have been made, or revenge taken on the person of some of their opponent's family, a Kattee will not speak to another who has slain his relation.
* Religious persons.
The province of Kattiwar has always been considered a tributary of Guzerat, although the realization of the revenue has been uncertain at different times. During the constant troubles in which Guzerat was involved, consequent to the fall of the house of Tymour and the annual invasions of the Mahrattas, a hasty and occasional mooluckgeeree * was not sufficient to keep the turbulent spirits of Kattiwar in order. The Paishwa’s and Guicawar forces, which on these occasions sometimes amounted to twenty thousand Mahratta horse, were opposed by every chieftain, and every petty village shut their gates and fired at the troops as they passed.
If they ventured to advance into the interior, they were compelled to use force to every village, and expended probably ten thousand rupees for the realization of one thousand. This army was surrounded by bodies of Kattee and Rajpoot cavalry, who cut off their supplies; and the expedition generally ended in a hasty retreat to Jhallawar, the chieftains of which being nearer to Guzerat, were often made to pay for the losses sustained on the expedition. The Kattees and some of the more enterprizing Rajpoots allowed to each other rich and fertile tracts of land in Guzerat, which they tauntingly styled jaghires or manors, and from which they levied contributions at pleasure. A Kattee could collect in a short period of three days seven or eight hundred cavalry of his own caste, capable of undertaking the most hazardous and fatiguing expeditions; and their attachment to a roving life and habits of plunder was such, that no danger, however great, could overcome what might be considered as inherent in their disposition. The superiority of the breed of horses in the peninsula gave those robbers a wonderful advantage over their neighbours in Guzerat. If overtaken, their acknowledged bravery, which when attacked borders on desperation, often deterred the pursuers from effecting any thing of consequence, and the death of a single Kattee was looked upon as an instance of surprising success. The Rajpoot, and in particular the Kattee, until late years looked upon agriculture as a degrading employment, and as a drudgery adapted to the habits of the koombie and ahar, or other labouring classes, whilst they reserved for themselves the duty of defending the village and its inhabitants.
* Military expedition.
The character of the Rajpoot of Kattiwar is composed of the extremes of praiseworthy and objectionable qualities. He is hospitable to strangers, and will defend them at the expense of his life and property. Indolent and effeminate to an extreme degree, he will, in cases of emergency, or when his own interest is involved, be roused to an incredible exertion of energy and activity. As an enemy he is often cruel. Impatient of an insult or injury, though seldom or ever offering one, he is upon the whole an inoffensive character : but what may perhaps be considered the most admirable ingredient in the composition of his mind, is a certain pride of family, which raises him above the level of his neighbours, and which, united with a passionate love of liberty and attachment to each other, forms a character which, if it does not call for admiration from its virtues, is probably entitled to it on the score of novelty.
In stature he may be considered to exceed the natives of the Deccan, being generally tall, but not of a robust frame. The complexion of the respectable Rajpoot is generally fair, contour of the face long, nose aquiline, and eyes large, but devoid of animation: the general expression of the face is pleasing. Their dress differs from that of most Indians : it consists of a fine white angerka or jacket, a pair of very wide trowsers of the same cloth, with a tight button at the ancle. Round their loins they gird a broad cummerband of dark brown cloth, which covers the buttocks and thighs. and above this is tied a white doputta. The turban is generally of a fine texture, tied on the head in loose twists to an inconvenient height, some
times two feet, and inclining a little forwards, and forms probably the handsomest head-dress to be met with anywhere.
The Kattee differs in some respects from the Rajpoot: he is more cruel in his disposition ; but far exceeds him in the virtue of bravery, and a character possessed of more energy than a Kattee does not exist. His size is considerably larger than common, often exceeding six feet. He is sometimes seen with light hair and blue-coloured eyes. The shoe of the Kattiwar, as it is confined to their particular district in the province, is perhaps to be seen no where else in the world. It is generally made of leather extremely soft, and being stuffed with cotton, is pleasant to the foot; the outer leather is strong, and stamped in flowers or other little ornaments, and the point turns up perpendicularly (in men of rank), sometimes as high as the lower part of the knee, quite stiff, and terminating in points of loose leather cut to resemble a bird's beak. The arms are the same throughout the peninsula, and consist of a sword, shield, and spear, the latter about eight feet long, made so slender as to break when thrown at the enemy, to whom it thus becomes useless. They are all horsemen, and are wonderfully particular in the breed of that animal. Mares are universally preferred. A Kattee's mare is one of his family: she lives under the same roof, by which means she is familiarized, and is obedient to his voice in all situations. A Kattee is seldom seen but walking or galloping his beast. He is so averse to walk on foot, that he rides to the field where he means to labour, and is prepared either to join a plundering party or resist attack.
Both the Rajpoot and Kattee eat the flesh of goats, sheep, and wild hogs, but they are more partial to a diet of milk and bajeree (bread baked with ghee into thick loaves).
The Bhomeas of Kattiwar still preserve a great portion of that spirit of hospitality for which their ancestors were so celebrated.
All the inhabitants of this province are much addicted to opium and spirituous liquors. A custom prevails throughout the country, of erecting a stone to the memory of those who have died a violent death; but it appears now to be common, also, to those who have departed in the course of nature. This stone is called a pallia: it resembles an European gravestone, has the name, date, and mode of death engraven, and is surmounted by a roughly executed figure, representing the manner in which the deceased fell. Thus you see them on horseback with swords and spears ; also on foot, or on carts, with the same weapons: I have even seen them on vessels, of course applicable to fishermen. In the upper parts of the pallia are the sun and moon rudely represented.
The practice of traga, or inflicting self-wounds, suicide, or the murder of relations, deserves to be noticed, as it forms a strong feature of the manners of the people. This practice, which is common in Kattiwar to Bhats and Charons of both sexes, and to Brahmans and Gosseins, has its rise in religious superstition, and probably cannot be better explained than in the following instance, which is perfectly true ; and although tragas* seldom wear this formidable aspect, still they are sometimes more criminal, by the sacrifice of a greater number of victims.
In the year 1806, a Bhat of Veweingaum, named Kunna, had become security on the part of Dossajee, the present chieftain of Mallia in the Muchoo Kaunta, for a sum of money payable to the Guicowar government. The time specified for payment arrived, and Dossajee refused to fulfil his engagement. Government applied to the Zamin or Munotidar, who, after several fruitless attempts to persuade Dossajee to comply with his bond, returned to his house; and after passing some time in prayer, assembled his family, and desired his wife to prepare a daughter, about seven years of age, for traga. The innocent child, taught from her earliest infancy to reflect on the sacred character and divine origin of her family, and the necessity which existed for the sacrifice, required no compulsion to follow the path by which the honour of her caste was to be preserved. Having bathed and dressed herself in her best clothes, she knelt with her head upon her father's knee, and holding aside her long hair, she resigned herself without a struggle to the sword of this unnatural barbarian. The blood of a Bhat being sprinkled on the gate of the chieftain produced an instan
* This abominable ceremony borders much upon the Brahman practice of Dherna, but is infinitely more detestable.—See page 145.